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AHI Capital Report, Vol. 4 Issue 4

Volume 4, Issue 4


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Vasilios Kotsatos
July/August 2012—No. 04 (202) 785-8430

AHI President’s Note: The American Hellenic Institute presents AHI’s Capital Report which is a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to help keep you abreast of the latest developments. As a service to our membership and constituency, and to gain an understanding of the position of other entities on our issues, the American Hellenic Institute attends and participates at policy forums or roundtable discussions to ensure the policy positions of the Greek-American community are represented.

The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

Top FYROM Envoy to U.S. Discusses Importance of NATO Integration

AHI attended a policy event at the RUMI forum titled, “Integration of Southeast Europe into NATO and EU and Macedonia’s Role,” featuring Zoran Jolevski, ambassador of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to the United States, July 10, 2012.

Ambassador Jolevksi spoke about the importance of NATO integration for FYROM and the obstacles in place that in his words prevent FYROM from entering the alliance with full integration status. In this context, subtle remarks about Greece as a factor for delaying integration were made. However, when asked why FYROM won't comply or try to work with Greece to fulfill the criteria established that would enable full integration, the ambassador cited a lack of an “authority figure” in Greece focused to resolve the issue due to Greece’s ongoing elections (at the time) and its economic crisis. Moreover, the ambassador believes the criteria for NATO integrations have been filled, claiming also an 85-92% domestic support for the move into NATO. The "one issue," stated Ambassador Jolevski, "is the block imposed by Greece." Jolevski added the closest that has been achieved in terms of full integration vis-à-vis agreements was through the Ohrid Agreement, but the diplomat said work still needs to be done.

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Senate Committee Holds Nomination Hearing for US Ambassador-Designate to Cyprus

AHI attended the confirmation hearing for Ambassador-Designate to the Republic of Cyprus, John M. Koenig held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 18, 2012. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) presided over the hearing. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) participated. Koenig is a career foreign service officer with 28 years of service. As part of his diplomatic career, Mr. Koenig held posts at Nicosia, Cyprus and Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece (two different tours).

Koenig’s Testimony

Ambassador-designate Koenig’s testimony described his Foreign Service background, including his tours in Cyprus, Greece, and, most recently, at the U.S. Mission to NATO. He also served as political advisor to the Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples. His top priority in Cyprus, if confirmed, will be “to support efforts to reunite Cyprus into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation,” expressing support for an end to the “de facto division of the island.” Koenig indicated support for engaging the Turkish Cypriot community in the process. Further, his statement expressed that the status quo threatened effective cooperation between NATO and the EU. His statement also expressed support for investment by U.S. companies in the Cypriot energy sector and reiterated the Administration’s support for the Republic of Cyprus’ right to develop its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Questioning by Members of the Foreign Relations Committee

Senator Shaheen, who chaired the hearing, began the questioning of Ambassador-designate Koenig. She inquired if the expanding Cypriot energy market would help resolve the Cyprus issue and if Mr. Koenig could “contextualize” Turkish aggression against energy companies looking to do business with Cyprus. The ambassador-designate reiterated that the United States supported the Republic of Cyprus’ right to explore in its EEZ and that this clear position should help to send a message to Turkey that its aggression in the region is unwelcome. Koenig added he was pleased to see American companies in the region. Senator Shaheen pressed Mr. Koenig to elaborate on Turkey’s reaction toward energy companies attempting to do business in the region and asked how the United States could show it is committed to supporting the Republic of Cyprus on this issue. Koenig responded that no party should do anything to heighten tension in the region and that the United States has been engaging Turkey and hopes that engagement will send the message.

Senator Barrasso asked Ambassador-designate Koenig if he supported partition or unification as a solution to the Cyprus problem. Koenig reiterated his support for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Senator Shaheen’s and Senator Barrasso’s questions mainly allowed for Koenig to reiterate most of the main points in his formal statement.

Senator Menendez asked Mr. Koenig if he supported a Cypriot run, Cypriot led solution with the goal being a single entity with one international personality and separate, federal communities. Mr. Koenig agreed with this statement. Senator Menendez followed-up, asking how Koenig viewed timelines. The nominee replied that there was no need for artificial deadlines on the negotiations. Sen. Menendez turned his line of questioning to the illegal colonization of the occupied area, asking if Koenig thought the colonization violated Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. Mr. Koenig responded that colonization was a “tragic consequence of occupation” and that the Administration sees the best way to resolve the colonization issue is by solving the Cyprus question with a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Menendez continued to press Mr. Koenig on the colonization issue, stating that the settlers had “no family and no roots” in the region and that there could not be a solution as long as the settlers continued to come into the occupied area. Unhappy with this answer, the senator asked how the United States could achieve its goals while illegal colonization continues. Koenig answered the question by saying that colonization was an important issue and that he looked forward to discussing it further.

In addition, Senator Menendez asked Ambassador-designate Koenig if he was aware that the leadership in the occupied area rejected the Council of Europe census and if he was aware of demonstrations against Turkey in the occupied area. Koenig replied he was aware of both of these occurrences, but struggled a bit when pressed for specifics. In his formal statement, Koenig said it was important to engage the Turkish community in the north, prompting Senator Menendez to ask if engagement would focus on the Turkish Cypriot community. Koenig said that he would focus on the Turkish Cypriot community in the reunification process.

Finally, Ambassador-designate Koenig committed to go to Cyprus with an open mind, to view the situation without a historical bias, and to develop his own opinion, at the request of Senator Menendez. He also committed to engaging the Cypriot diaspora community in the United States before leaving for his tour in Cyprus.

Senator Shaheen concluded the line of questioning by inquiring about the financial situation in Cyprus. She asked about the Republic of Cyprus’ exposure to Greek debt and if Cyprus was taking the appropriate steps to reform. Koenig answered that as the Cypriot banking sector grew it increased its exposure to Greek debt. He also said that the United States should support Cypriot reforms and that current negotiations are headed in the right direction.

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AEI Explore Possible Roles for U.S. Engagement in European Financial Crisis


AHI attended a policy forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) titled, “Europe on the brink: How should the U.S. engage?” on July 19, 2012.

Featured panelists were: Timothy Adams, The Lindsey Group; Frank Lavin, Export Now; Mickey Levy, Bank of America; and Kristen Silverberg, German Marshall Fund. AEI Managing Director Desmond Lachman moderated the panel. Recent developments in U.S. participation in the EU economic crisis and the implications of the crisis to U.S.-Europe relations were general topics of discussion.

Lachman summarized the latest IMF report on how the European recession is expected to “intensify” in the next few months, especially for countries in the periphery, notably Spain and Italy.

“The IMF came out this week, indicating contractions in 2012 and [in] 2013, feeding a movement backlash against austerity measures in those countries ... Greece is going to begin to negotiate with the Troika about what its package should be for 2013-14 ... we may very well get an exit from Greece at the end of the year,” he said.

Panelist Levy added, “The ECB, EU, IMF cannot be solutions, Greece’s problem may be too big to solve ... [without] sacrifice of sovereignty with extremely high costs to economic performance ... ‘European style fiscal federalism’.” He argued that the crisis is eating away at the social fabric of the countries experiencing it: Spain’s unemployment rate is still high and Greece’s has increased to approximately 50% of its total population of the workforce ages 15-25. “The labor cost is still high,” explained Levy, “[hence] we see a lack of competitiveness ... [with] money going out of Greece, Spain and Italy and money going into Germany and Holland.” He called this a “Target-to-imbalances system,” where we see differences in debt causation between the European countries: Spain with high levels of public sector debt and Germany with high levels of private sector debt. People are taking their money out of Greek and Spanish banks as capital flight measures, he said.

In his presentation, Lavin focused on a microeconomic perspective of the issues currently undergoing Greece, deeming the situation can change when a new “polity” comes into power. That is—the political arena must sort itself out first before the seeds of change can be planted. Lavin mentioned the idea of a Transatlantic Trade Area with the U.S. as a way to identify methods of U.S. engagement, asserting that there needs to be more than two participants in terms of trading regulations. Therefore, a multilateral approach must be used.

Kristin Silverberg offered that Europe’s importance to the U.S. goes unquestioned because a successful Europe is central to U.S. foreign policy goals. She asserted that the U.S. should not just be a bystander because that would be a moral hazard. Also, politicians play a key role, which is to enact reforms and this was a very important part to the conclusions made by the panelists.

In sum, the panelists agreed the U.S. needs to reassume the role of stimulating economic growth. The discussion concluded with an agreement that the solution must be collective. The U.S. and other actors, including Germany, must work together to help these European periphery countries maintain investment through good management of multi-lateral actions.

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Presidential Candidates’ Policy Advisers Provide Insight on Candidates’ Views

AHI attended a Brookings Institution discussion that examined the foreign policy, defense, and national security agendas of Presidential Candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, July 25, 2012. The event featured Michele Flournoy, co-chair of the National Security Advisory Committee, Obama for America; and Rich Williamson, senior adviser for foreign and defense policy, Romney for President, Inc. Brookings Vice President Martin Indyk, director of Foreign Policy, provided introductory remarks. Brookings Guest Scholar Marvin Kalb moderated the discussion.

Iran’s nuclear ambition was the top agenda item. Both speakers identified Iran’s nuclear aspirations as a great threat to the security and stability of the international system. Williamson presented Romney’s position, which is the U.S. needs to create a credible threat of military force focusing on two things: 1) the creation of a credible use-of-force-threat and subsequently 2) the protection of U.S. allies and friends in the region. Flournoy stated the ultimate goal is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability in their arsenal. To this end, however, she maintained the U.S. should first engage with Iran in order to galvanize greater support from the international community (such as the United Nations). As a result, U.S. efforts can “capitalize” on this support, for example, via sanctions on Iran’s banking system and oil-related industry.

The topic of Syria and its civil war was also addressed. Flournoy acknowledged the biggest present threat in Syria is the potential use of chemical weapons by the regime or the proliferation of these weapons by non-state actors such as terrorist organizations. In her view, the U.S. needs to closely collaborate with its allies in the region in order to prevent such a catastrophic scenario. However, change must be Syrian-driven and not based on external-forces, she added. Williamson presented the position that the U.S. should create some short of communication-channel with the opposition (both the political parties as well as the opposition forces) first and then start providing military assistance (such as weapons) to moderate fractions of the opposition forces. In his view, this can be done through regional allies such as Turkey, Israel and Jordan.

In addition, the panelists discussed relations with Russia. Flournoy presented the position favorable to a cooperative relationship with Russia in areas of strategic concern, which will allow both countries to meet their national interests. Williamson was critical of Russia, arguing that the U.S. should be talking more openly about all the major issues on the table (Syria, Iran, energy sources as a foreign-policy tool). The U.S. should also place political pressure on Russia in the UN in order to implement a Security Council-led resolution to the current Syrian crisis.

Finally, on Israel, Flournoy briefly mentioned that the current U.S. administration has managed to enhance the U.S.-Israeli security cooperation by increasing the annual financial assistance to Israel’s Iron Dome project. Williamson in return argued that the U.S. should be implementing a “respectful dialogue” by talking to all parties involved, including the Palestinians.

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State Department Hosts Global Diaspora Forum

The United States Department of State launched the second annual Global Diaspora Forum, July 25, 2012. The forum recognizes the enormous diplomatic and developmental influence of global diaspora communities and is meant to foster connections between diaspora communities to promote sustainable development in their countries of heritage. The two-day forum featured various plenary panels, breakout sessions, and keynote speakers—most notably, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The forum also focused on the ways diaspora communities could organize, innovate, and engage with their countries of origin.

Kris Balderston, special representative of the Global Partnership Initiatives, U.S. Department of State, opened the forum. A Year in Review presentation of the International diaspora Engagement Alliance’s (IdEA’s) initiatives followed. The presentation showed the successes that IdEA had within the African, Caribbean, and Tunisian diaspora communities by sponsoring entrepreneurial competitions to foster sustainable economic development in their home countries.

Secretary of State Clinton lauded the enormous potential of diaspora communities and recognized that global diasporans can “move forward by giving back” in her keynote address. Secretary Clinton offered that diaspora communities have had great opportunities to live out their own dreams and hopes as Americans and that it is the challenging job of the global diaspora to convey that message to others. Every member of the global diaspora left their home country to seek better economic opportunities, religious freedoms, freedom of conscious, or the change to stretch one’s own ambition. Secretary Clinton declared, “… It is part of America’s ongoing mission to try to help more people everywhere to have that same chance.” Finally, she asked all of the attendees to never take for granted “…the chance that you and I have had because of the blessings in this country.”

Tara Sonenshine, under secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, also addressed the forum. Sonenshine discussed the “people power” behind diaspora communities, emphasizing the power that public diplomacy, such as social media campaigns, can have on organizing diaspora communities and facilitating issue activism.

The first day of the forum also offered various plenary panels about increasing volunteerism, activism, and engagement with diaspora communities worldwide.

The forum’s second day focused on ways in which diaspora engagement has been practiced and on innovative ways of fostering cultural exchange. The breakout session “Innovations to Affect Change,” featured Aphodite Bouikidis of Ashoka Foundation. She spoke about her experiences on the Reinventing Greece Media Project. Greece was identified as one of the primary ‘migration-out’ countries during the 1950s, commenting on a new trend of migration of its young population nowadays in search of better opportunities abroad. Focus was placed on ways of rekindling the diaspora (Greeks abroad with Greeks in Greece) and methods of trust building among civil organizations in Greece. Bouikidis spoke on the importance of having discussion and establishing a connection between diaspora members, sharing people’s work and keeping communication as a way to affect change and development.

Kingsley Aikins, CEO, Diaspora Matters, examined proposals of various diaspora communities for funding their home countries during his keynote address. He commended the recent trip of former President Bill Clinton to Greece and the "Hellenic Initiative." Businessmen of Greek heritage, living abroad, who want to facilitate foreign investment in Greece derived the initiative, which has the goal to raise $100 million to help charities in Greece. Aikins commented that such efforts can only be successful if they are administered by a small group of individuals who have a very dedicated focus and commitment towards the goal.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) closed the conference, citing examples of successful diaspora experiences he has encountered during his career.

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AHI Interns Meet their Members of Congress

Interns from the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) met with their members of Congress in July to discuss issues of importance to the Greek American community. AHI President Nick Larigakis accompanied the interns to the meetings on Capitol Hill.

Intern Dimitri Dimitriou (University of California, Berkeley) visited his member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), July 11, 2012. Dimitriou raised awareness about developments in the eastern Mediterranean pertaining to cooperative efforts between Cyprus and Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon to explore for hydrocarbon reserves within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). He also informed Congressman Rohrabacher about Turkey’s various intimidation tactics in the eastern Mediterranean directed toward Cyprus and Israel. In addition, Congressman Rohrabacher expressed interest in H.R.2597, “The American Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act.” The congressman also re-affirmed his position that reopening the Halki Seminary School is important, and he expressed concern regarding other religious freedom violations in Turkey.

AHI Intern Cady Papageorgiou (SUNY, Geneseo) met with her congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), July 20, 2012. Congresswoman Clarke welcomed the opportunity to become informed on the issues especially because she was familiar with members of the Greek American community of New York. Papageorgiou raised awareness about the Cyprus issue and the latest developments regarding Cyprus with regard to the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves. Congresswoman Clarke offered that the Turkish invasion and occupation by Turkish troops is not behavior that any NATO alliance country should display. The meeting also provided an opportunity for H.R. 2597 “American-Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act” to be discussed.

Dimitri Dimitriou with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Cady Papageorgiou, Congresswoman Yvonne Clarke and Nick Larigakis.

 

 

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